Fiasco now farce as Thai tests fail to compute

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 06 May, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 06 May, 2006, 12:00am

The fiasco over Thailand's new university admission system has turned to farce with universities being asked to extend admission deadlines for a third time and authorities admitting rechecked entrance scores are still 'riddled with errors'.

Hundreds of thousands of students were left in limbo after the introduction of the O-Net (Ordinary National Educational Test) and A-Net (Advanced National Educational Test) scores went seriously awry. More than 300,000 12th graders sat the tests, the results of which were to be used as admissions criteria for higher education. The tests are overseen by the newly-established National Institute of Education Testing Service (NIETS).

Results were posted on April 1 but NIETS voided the scores nationwide the next day after hundreds of students complained they had been given virtually impossible scores of zero.

State universities this week agreed to extend their admission deadline until Tuesday. The decision was announced by Pavich Tongroach, secretary-general of the Office of the Higher Education Commission this week, after talks with 24 public university rectors.

Under the new admissions system, 30 per cent of the weight is given to the grade point average (GPA) and the cumulative grade point average (GPAX), while the O-Net and A-Net scores get 70 per cent. Mr Pavich has urged students who still have problems with their O-Net and A-Net scores to press ahead with university admission applications based on their GPA and GPAX scores and 'other credentials'. He also called on universities to be flexible in light of the problems with the new system.

He admitted it was hard to tell when the system would be sorted out. 'NIETS has messed up, and new problems keep popping up,' he said. 'NIETS officials have not responded to complaints by students who were given zero grades. It's a mess.'

The chief of the executive board of NIETS, Khunying Sumontha Promboon, has admitted responsibility for the fiasco and resigned, but her promise that proper test results would be announced by April 30 is now in tatters.

NIETS officials have complained of problems in properly identifying owners of many test papers during the rechecking process, and this week, acting director of NIETS, Prateep Chankong, blamed 'stains on answer sheets' for causing marking machines to malfunction.

Kamolpan Chivapansri, head of the Parents' and Youth Network for Education Reform, this week lodged a petition at Government House calling for the O-Net and A-Net system to be scrapped altogether.

One 12th grader said she compared her written maths test to that of a friend. Their answers were exactly the same but she had received a zero while the friend got full marks. Another student, Wiranan Niyomgul, a graduate of Bangkok's Horwang school, told the Bangkok Post: 'My O-Net scores stood at 42 on Monday, then slipped to 39 by Tuesday, then I went for lunch and by the time I came back my score was listed as 38. It's no use waiting for such unreliable scores. I'd rather apply to a private university.'